If you've ever found yourself in London, unable to find a toilet and furiously hopping around to contain the yellow flood whose release feels imminent, I have good news: Westminster City Council, which covers London's bustling Oxford Street, the West End, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, on Thursday launched "SatLav" - a toilet-finding service for cell phone users. Tourists, theatergoers, shoppers and pub patrons in London's West End can now text the word "toilet" - and receive a text back with the address of the nearest public facility.
The system, which covers 40 public toilets, pinpoints the caller's position by measuring the strength of the phone signal. The texts cost about 50 cents, and most of Westminster's toilets are free. The council said it hopes the service will stop people from urinating in alleyways, saying some 10,000 gallons of urine ends up in Westminster streets each year. Companies such as Vindigo Inc. in the U.S. offers similar cell phone searches but SatLav is being touted as the first text-based toilet-finder in Britain. "It's the first fully managed service that we're aware of," British Toilet Association director Richard Chisnell said, praising the council. "Thank heavens for Westminster's public toilets."